Oral & Dental

Oral Hygiene Day 2022: Importance of oral hygiene and how to maintain it

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By Dr Sonia Bhatt, Dental Surgeon- 30 July 2021, Updated on - 17 November 2022

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The Global Burden of Disease Study of 2017 conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that around 3.5 billion people across the globe suffer from oral diseases. However, you will be amazed to know that most oral health conditions including tooth decay, gum diseases and even oral cancers can be prevented by simply maintaining oral hygiene. Every year, 1st August is observed as Oral Hygiene Day in India to commemorate the birth anniversary of Dr G B Shankwalkar, the founder of the Indian Society of Periodontology. The day aims at spreading awareness about the importance of maintaining oral hygiene and the ways to prevent several dental as well as systemic diseases. 

Why is maintaining oral hygiene important?

The human body consists of several complex systems which are interconnected. For instance, the respiratory system (breathing system) and the circulatory system (blood-carrying system) work together for the absorption of oxygen and the release of carbon dioxide from the body. Any disorder in the circulatory system would affect the exchange of gases in the lungs. Similarly, poor oral health can also result in several systemic complications including heart disease and diabetes. 

Studies suggest there are some dental as well as systemic diseases associated with poor oral hygiene. The dental diseases associated with poor oral hygiene include:

  • Tooth decay: Also called dental caries or cavities, tooth decay is one of the most common dental diseases characterized by degradation of the outer layer of the tooth (enamel), sensitivity to hot and cold food and beverages, and severe pain. Dental caries can occur due to the lack of removal of plaque (a sticky layer of bacteria on the surface of teeth) and debris. Caries can also occur due to reduced flow of saliva, which otherwise washes away the stuck food particles and neutralizes the acids produced by bacteria in the mouth.
  • Gum infection: Gum infection, medically called periodontitis, is characterized by pain, itching, swelling, and bleeding from the gums. Due to a lack of proper brushing and flossing, the plaque present on the surface of the teeth calcifies, forming hard tartar called calculus. Both plaque and calculus destroy the gum tissues and the underlying bone. 

Poor oral hygiene is associated with systemic diseases which include:

  • Diabetes: Studies have shown that periodontitis can worsen diabetes as it impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin, resulting in increased blood sugar levels. 
  • Heart disease: Oral cavity harbours millions of bacteria but their count reduces significantly after performing a daily oral hygiene routine. However, poor oral hygiene provides a favourable environment for the growth of some harmful bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes, which can enter the bloodstream and result in infective endocarditis. Infective endocarditis is a potentially fatal infection of the inner lining of the heart muscle or valves (endocardium).
  • Pregnancy complications: Periodontitis is one of the most common problems during pregnancy, which, if not managed, can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. 

How to maintain oral hygiene

Some measures that should be followed regularly to ensure a clean and healthy oral cavity include:

1. Regular oral hygiene practice

  • Brushing: One should brush their teeth twice daily, once in the morning after waking up and once before sleeping at night, with a soft or ultra-soft bristled toothbrush. Manual or electric toothbrushes can be used to remove the layer of plaque from the teeth. Interproximal brushes can help clean the spaces between the teeth, which cannot be cleaned using a regular toothbrush.
  • Flossing: Floss is a thread coated with wax used to remove plaque and debris stuck between the teeth, dental fillings, and braces. Flossing regularly can reduce gingival bleeding and reduce the risk of developing cavities.
  • Tongue cleaning: Cleaning the tongue is an essential aspect of a completely clean mouth as it prevents bad odour. Tongue cleaning can be done using metal/ plastic scrapers or the non-bristle end of the toothbrush.
  • Mouthwash: Mouthwashes act as an adjunct to other oral hygiene measures. While cosmetic mouthwashes are used to mask bad breath, therapeutic mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine digluconate help in preventing and treating periodontitis. Mouthwashes should be diluted with water before use. Mouthwashes can be used consecutively for 21 days followed by discontinuation for at least 2 weeks to prevent staining of teeth.

2. Frequent dental check-ups: It is essential to visit a dentist once every 6 months to ensure a healthy oral cavity. One must visit the dentist if they experience pain, bleeding gums, swelling, non-healing ulcers or any change in colour or texture of the soft tissues inside the mouth (including cheeks, lips and tongue). These signs can be an indication of a serious or potentially serious condition.

3. Consuming a nutritious diet: One should avoid the consumption of sugary and refined foods such as baked food items and carbonated beverages as they promote the production of acid, which can break down the enamel. People should consume a diet rich in fibre, found in leafy vegetables, whole fruits and whole grains by stimulating the production of saliva in the mouth.

4. Quitting unhealthy habits: One should completely quit using all forms of tobacco (smoked and smokeless) along with chewing areca nuts. Smoking cigarettes can reduce the amount of saliva secreted and increase the risk of developing lung cancer while chewing tobacco and areca nuts can cause oral cancer. People should limit their alcohol consumption to not more than 2 drinks a day to ensure proper flow of saliva in the mouth. 


Inadequate oral care can result in several dental as well as systemic diseases. Thus, taking care of oral health is important to ensure overall well-being. One can maintain basic oral hygiene by brushing teeth, cleaning the tongue, using a mouthwash, and flossing regularly. Practising good dental hygiene is crucial to prevent oral diseases and dental problems. Visiting the dentist every six months for a prophylactic cleaning and oral examination is advisable.

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